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What is Plastic

Plastic History

A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids that are moldable. Plastics are typically organic polymers of high molecular mass, but they often contain other substances. They are usually synthetic, most commonly derived from petrochemicals, but many are partially natural

Early plastics were bio-derived materials such as egg and blood proteins, which are organic polymers. Treated cattle horns were used as windows for lanterns in the Middle Ages. Materials that mimicked the properties of horns were developed by treating milk-proteins (casein) with lye. In the 1800s the development of plastics accelerated with Charles Goodyear's discovery of vulcanization as a route to thermoset materials derived from natural rubber. Many storied materials were reported as industrial chemistry was developed in the 1800s. In the early 1900s, Bakelite, the first fully synthetic thermoset was reported by Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland. After the First World War, improvements in chemical technology led to an explosion in new forms of plastics. Among the earliest examples in the wave of new polymers were polystyrene (PS) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The development of plastics has come from the use of natural plastic materials (e.g., chewing gum, shellac) to the use of chemically modified natural materials (e.g., rubber, nitrocellulose, collagen, galalite) and finally to completely synthetic molecules (e.g., bakelite, epoxy, polyvinyl chloride)

Plastic Kinds

Plastics can be divided into two major categories:
1. Thermoset or thermosetting plastics. Once cooled and hardened, these plastics retain their shapes and cannot return to their original form. They are hard and durable. Thermosets can be used for auto parts, aircraft parts and tires. Examples include polyurethanes, polyesters, epoxy resins  and phenolic resins.
2. Thermoplastics. Less rigid than thermosets, thermoplastics can soften upon heating and return to their original form. They are easily molded and extruded into films, fibers and packaging. Examples include polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

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